Practicum Pause: an interview with Alexandra Obradovich

During the winter 2015 term, McGill Library & Archives welcomed several practicum students from the McGill School of Information Studies (SIS). The SIS website outlines the practicum experience as

a 3 credit academic elective course in which master’s-level students participate in field practice under the guidance of site supervisors. Students benefit from the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge base and learning in a real-world setting, while gaining experience and practicing professional skills. Site supervisors and their workplaces benefit from the energy, knowledge, and skills of an emerging information professional while providing students with a valuable mentorship experience in a real-world setting.

Library Matters took a practicum pause with these students to talk about their work at the McGill Library & Archives and how their experience may help to inform Library units as they move forward with related projects. Our third interview features Alexandra Obradovich. Alexandra’s practicum at the Humanities & Social Sciences Library involved conducting an environmental scan of information literacy initiatives, identifying best practices and trends across the academic library landscape as well as assisting in providing information literacy instruction to undergraduate arts students.

Library Matters (LM): Your practicum involves information literacy. Can you tell readers a little bit more about what you did over the course of the 4 months?

Alexandra Obradovich (AO): There were multiple components to this practicum. I began by conducting a survey of peer institution websites in which I would go through and see what kind of online videos they had related to information literacy. I recorded that information and organized the videos in categories, such as “how to use the databases” or “how to navigate the library”. The survey forms a direct link with the literature review I did which contains around 30 articles on the concept of “flipping the classroom”. “Flipping the classroom” is an instructional technique that moves the lecture outside of class time in the form of online videos, which students view before class. The class time can then be spent on application of core concepts and more active learning techniques. In my survey of online resources, I wanted to see what kind of content could possibly go online so that future iterations of the MyArts Research program could possibly be “flipped” to focus more on active learning. The literature review and the survey of peer institution websites were in preparation for the MyArts Research workshops that occurred later on in the process. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to give two hour and a half long sessions to students.

LM: Did you work evenly on each component in terms of your time? What was the proportion of your time that you dedicated to the literature review or survey versus practicing your presentation?

AO: I would say the literature review and the survey definitely took the longest. The survey was rather labour intensive. I had done literature reviews in the past but with that many articles, it was a lot. The presentations that I gave were fairly introductory in nature so I felt pretty comfortable. I did practice some, but I think my time was dedicated mostly to the literature review and the survey.

LM: In terms of the “flipping the classroom” concept, what could be incorporated into online content here at McGill Library & Archives? What needs to be tackled in the classroom?

Example of Survey results

Courtesy of Alexandra Obradovich.

AO: I think some of the more basic library research concepts could go online. Boolean operators for example; choosing key words; breaking down research questions. I think students should bring their own research questions to the workshops. The individualized help and interaction of the librarian and the student is what is really important. Personalized advice from an information expert should be the focus.

LM: How was your teaching experience?

AO: I had done presentations before as part of my MLIS degree but two hour and a half long presentations were a bit intimidating. However, once I got up there, it was really fun and the students were really engaged because they were voluntary workshops so they were all interested in doing their best. I especially liked engaging with students. Exploring topics like why information literacy is important, peer-reviewed versus popular resources and why you should be able to identify what kind of resource you’re looking at were really enjoyable. It was a great experience and one of the more beneficial concrete skills that I’ve gained from this practicum.

LM: Was there anything else that you gained from this practicum?

AO: Definitely there were a lot of different learning outcomes for this. I think being able to read so many different articles and synthesize the content was a major skill. Also, being able to meet deadlines. Because of the number of components to this practicum, I had to make sure that things were done quickly and efficiently in order to meet those deadlines.

LM: Did you have a “Eureka!” moment?

AO: I realized that doing the survey, the workshops and the literature review all informed one another and it was interesting how the various components of the practicum came together. The literature review was informed by what I found in the survey, and this could impact the organization of the MyArts Research workshops in the future. Also, once I had given the first workshop of the day, I was far more comfortable for the second one.

LM: What were some of your findings once you had completed the literature review and the survey?

AO: Students need to be able to apply these skills to their everyday life. Library research can be a complicated and frustrating process, so if there were to be a focus on more active learning and applying the skills to various contexts, then students will be more prepared for some of the real-life complexities involved in library research.

LM: Is recent research on “flipping the classroom” driving the conversation?

AI: I believe this is a rather current topic; plenty of the articles that I had found had been written in the last couple years, which is the time frame to which I tried to limit my research. There are also several that had been published this year which I had to go back to and incorporate so as to have the most current literature on the topic. People seem to be divided on the concept of “flipping the classroom;” some people see it as a fad, whereas some others are big proponents, so interesting debates occur.

LM: Is there anything you would like to specialize in once you graduate?

AO: I believe this practicum has given me plenty of experience in terms of information literacy instruction, and my English degree from the University of Windsor has given me a great foundation so I would like to build on that somehow. A position working with information literacy programming would be interesting. There are some other skills I would like to develop as well as I proceed through with my career.



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